More and more professors are using midterm student evaluations, experts say, and more and more colleges are strongly urging their faculty to collect student feedback midway through their courses. (Medina, 2011, Chronicle of Higher Education).
Can you believe midterms are upon us? It's that time of the fall semester that brings tons of grading, Halloween decorations, and of course, midcourse reviews. Midcourse reviews provide feedback that can potentially assist you in fine-tuning your course while it is still underway. Sometimes called a formative evaluation, the midcourse review is an optional and informal supplement to the end-of-semester summative evaluations. Interest in these reviews is driven by a desire to see what’s working well in your class and what could be improved to aid student learning. The advantage of doing these at mid-term is that you are able to make adjustments to your course this semester.
In a midcourse review, a facilitator will ask your students in groups to discuss three questions:
- What is working well in the class (i.e., what is helping you learn)?
- What is not working well (i.e., what is hindering your learning)?
- What suggestions do you have for improvement?
By the end of the 20 minutes, we will have a composite list of student reactions to these issues. Then, at a mutually convenient time, the facilitator meets with you to confidentially discuss what the students said. In general you will get an accurate “barometer reading” on how the class is going.
Still on the fence? Check out this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
If you are interested in scheduling a midcourse review, get in touch now.
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The more diversity we find in all facets of our society, the better off we are as a society. This diversity would not be fully realized without those with disabilities. Consequently, making accommodations for students with disabilities is not just a legal obligation; it is also a social and moral one. Citizens with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in many areas of the American workplace, including positions in the STEM fields. One way that we, as educators, can help to improve the number of people with disabilities in fields where they have been traditionally underrepresented is by supporting them in their pursuit of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Taking steps to make our course content accessible will give all students an equal opportunity to benefit from the pedagogical styles and techniques used in physical and virtual classrooms all over the country.
Disability and Accessibility provides some useful information about students and disabilities, along with some practical approaches to teaching students with learning disabilities. The information focuses on learning disabilities, but the resources provide information about a variety of disabilities. As you review the information in Disability and Accessibility, keep in mind the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. UDL helps us focus on students' abilities rather than their disabilities. Curricular and pedagogical changes can then be made that benefit all students by providing all with an equal opportunity to learn.
As the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, I get asked about cheating a lot. Instead of focusing on student characteristics related to cheating, I typically encourage faculty (including myself) to look for ways to discourage academic dishonesty through the learning environments we establish.
Dr. James Lang, who writes a regular column for the Chronicle of Higher Education, did a thought-provoking three part series on this topic. In Part 2 he focuses on how our assessments can encourage or discourage cheating. He writes:
Why should I bother to redesign my courses to include more frequent, low-stakes assessments, which will require more time and effort on my part, just to reduce the already small numbers of students who may be cheating in my courses? The short answer: You shouldn't redesign your courses just to reduce cheating. You should redesign them in order to increase learning.
Want to know more? Read his post on Cheating Lessons, Part 2. If you are dealing with this issues, I encourage you to check out Part 1 and Part 3 as well.
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When I think of teaching, I think of classrooms filled with eager students who are ready to absorb the knowledge saturating the room. I further envision students using that knowledge to advance humankind to new and exciting heights. Okay. My vision may be somewhat fanciful, but we, as teachers, have the ability to spark a curiosity and a desire to learn in our students that no one else can. The quality of our teaching is a powerful factor in maintaining the interest of our students and supporting their achievement in their chosen fields of study and beyond.
We take seriously the influential power that we have over our students’ educational experience. We read about, and meet to discuss with our colleagues, those teaching tools and techniques that will be most effective in helping our students to learn. We learn about all of the latest pedagogical approaches being used in classrooms around the world. We hear phrases like “flipping the classroom”, “problem-based learning”, “team teaching” and “integrative learning”, and we willingly conduct the research necessary to determine if these ideas can be successfully incorporated into our teaching process. Then, we begin to incorporate the practices that we believe will work. We find that some work better than others, some work only for a finite period of time and some don’t work at all.
Our willingness to see what works, and what doesn’t, makes us better teachers. At a given time, any of a number of pedagogical strategies can work in a classroom, but it is important to understand that their effectiveness can ebb and flow. Students may transition from or outgrow a particular method of teaching or a particular method may lend itself to one discipline and not another. The important part is to try. If it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t work, then try something else. In either case, always share the hits and the misses with others so that they can benefit from what we’ve already learned. Ultimately, it is the students who benefit.
It is a safe assumption that some form of the old tried and true lecture will always be a part of teaching, but never be unwilling to transform the learning experience with new and innovative practices. Conversely, appreciate when a practice is not supporting the goal of educating students. In The Flip: End of a Love Affair, we are reminded of the power of pedagogical tools and the even greater power of understanding when we should move on to the next one.
You likely begin each workday by checking your professional e-mail account. The paper you assigned in your senior seminar course is due today, and you are expecting to receive some e-mails from students regarding this assignment. You relax into your desk chair with a cup of coffee and begin reading the new messages in your inbox...
A new article from the Association for Psychological Science presents some interesting data on student e-mails and offers suggestions for maintaining your sanity as they pile up.
There has been some heated discussion in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the future of the college lecture. Is it a thing of the past in the internet age? See what students have to say. Whatever your opinion of the views being expressed, this article has been getting a lot of attention.